News

Cal: No GM crops at Gill Tract, research work is under way

Activists took over UC Berkeley owned land at Gill Tract in Albany on April 22. Photo: Tracey Taylor

UC Berkeley has released an open letter to update the community on the state of play at Gill Tract, which, until May 14, was being occupied by a group of farm activists known as the Gill Tract Farmers Collective. The letter says that preparations for agricultural research are now under way at the university-owned site, which is just over the Berkeley border in Albany on San Pablo Avenue, and sets out to dispel what it calls several “myths and misunderstandings” that have appeared in the media, in blogs and in online forums.

Meanwhile, Occupy the Farm is organizing a Planter Box Rally at Gill Tract on Saturday May 19, followed by a Community Forum on Visions for Food Sovereignty and Food Justice. It is also collecting signatures on a petition that aims to “tell the university that farm land is for farming.”

An Alameda County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday this week against defendants named in a lawsuit brought by UC Berkeley against several farm protesters.

The university states that, contrary to some reports, none of the research work at the Gill Tract involves genetically modified crops or organisms and nor is any of it is being funded by corporate sponsors; the Gill Tract was not donated to the campus, it was purchased for $400,000 in the 1920s; and that even though Cal is a public university, this does not mean that university property is freely open to all members of the public to use as they like.

Read the full open letter from UC Berkeley.

Related:
UC Berkeley regains control of Gill Tract [05.14.12]

Police raid, clear out Occupy the Farm, handful of arrests [05.14.12]
UC Berkeley speaks of impasse, seals off Occupy Farm [05.10.12]
Activists: Farming and research can coexist, no need for police [05.10.12]
UC Berkeley files lawsuit against Occupy the Farm activists [05.09.12]
Could UC and Occupy the Farm compromise on Gill Tract? [05.04.12]
UC Berkeley calls for peaceful end to Occupy the Farm [04.23.12]

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  • Bruce Love

     

    I will say it again: a mutation of one DNA base to a different base is
    precisely that, no matter what agent caused the change.  What
    distinction can there be when the result of a mutation is simply a
    change in a DNA base?

    Probabilities of location, frequency of occurence, concentration of such examples in time and place, effects of intentional selection,  downstream intent (such as for “lets see what happens” transgenic insertion into switchgrass), and ecological context.   For example.

    here are only four such bases,and mutations don’t create new or different ones.

    I think a lot of Berkeleyside readers are likely to be more scientifically literate than you appear to give them credit for.

  • The Sharkey

     

    I think a lot of Berkeleyside readers are likely to be more scientifically literate than you appear to give them credit for.

    What are you trying to hint at with this comment? Are you accusing “guest” of trying to deceive readers? If so, how? What factual errors or deceptive comments has he made? If that is not what you are trying to say, can you clarify your meaning?

    I know you have no interest in a discussion with me, but it might be helpful for other readers. As I am sure a lot of other people are, I’m undecided about GMOD products and find this discussion interesting.

  • Guest

    I’ll say it again: you don’t know what you’re talking about. You are simply taking terms you have picked up somewhere but never clearly understood, and throwing them around hoping that your confident tone will convince someone. If you disagree with something I am saying, then try correcting me and citing literature in support of a clearly enunciated point of view. Every time you try something like the above, the comparison to the “intelligent design” crowd just seems more apt.

  • Anonymous

    This is exactly what “Bruce” does on nearly every topic.  He’s way beyond the usual liberal studies know-it-all, it’s like some sort of pathology with him.  I assume that’s why he chooses to remain anonymous but pretend he isn’t.

  • Charles_Siegel

     It is not a joke.  The government has just begun to regulate the use of antibiotics in animals because they have created anti-biotic resistant strains of diseases, which are killing people as we speak. 

  • Charles_Siegel

     Clearly, there are natural mutations that we should worry about,  But there is a new worry added when we begin to create new mutations very quickly and under commercial pressure that makes us do dangerous things like planting pharm crops in the open.  We can deal with this new worry by evaluating the environmental effects of gm crops before we allow them to go into production.

    GM crops are potentially more dangerous than chemicals.  If a chemical spills into the environment, there is one spill and that is it.  A GM crop can potentially continue to reproduce and spread and can never be cleaned up.

    Your support of planting GM crops without thorough study of their environmental effects seems to be based on an essentially religious belief that technology is always benign, which lacks any rational basis. 

    Anyone with his eyes open can see that technology gives us more power over nature, and that power can be used either productively or destructively.  Therefore, we should be careful about how we use new technologies whose potential side-effects we do not understand.

  • The Sharkey

    I’m not saying it is! I guess the smiley face was confusing. I was trying to lighten the mood, not say that the worries about the over use of hand sanitizers was a joke.

    I almost never use hand sanitizers or antibiotics, specifically for the reasons you mention.

  • The Sharkey

    This is part of why I find interactions with Bruce to be very frustrating. I don’t know how much he actually knows about this subject. Maybe he knows a lot, maybe not. But he speaks about almost every subject with an air of complete authority and then responds flippantly or simply ignores anyone who challenges something he’s said.

  • Guest

    Now just where did I say that I “support of planting GM crops without thorough study of their environmental effects”? I wouldn’t say that, and I didn’t say that; if you think that I did you need to read my post again and examine your assumptions.
    What I did do was pose a series of questions, I will now try a different tack. There is no question that one ought to take reasonable measures to assure that any organism that is released into the environment is safe – I am not aware of any scientist or seed company that disagrees. But what does “reasonable” mean in this context? I and many many others think that it is reasonable to include an assessment of the actual danger to the environment and humanity posed by the uncontrolled spread of the modified organism. That requires an assessment of the species that has been modified, the way in which it is modified, and how that modification changes the risks posed by uncontrolled spread. But many opponents of GMOs seem to think that genetic modification per se is a risk, and that belief lacks any rational basis.

    My comparison with invasive exotic species was not made to support the idea that we should just release anything into the environment – quite the contrary. My points was that if you are truly concerned about the effects of introducing plants or animals that might damage the environment, then you should be really really concerned about invasive exotic species. The Australian eucalyptus (I will just call it a gum tree) is a prominent example in this area. It is a plant that is beautifully adapted to an environment where it may have to go for years without rain; consequently it can easily take any drought California is ever likely to have, and thrives on even meager annual rainfall. Gum trees drop leaves, bark and branches, creating a flammable litter: they thrive in the bushfires created by this litter, which clear out competing plants, but such fires can pose a great danger to people and native species. This is scary, but very real, and it is only one example of the damage and risk that can be imposed by an invasive exotic species. 

    Now I happen to think that a crop species is much less likely to create the same kind of damage and risk. Why do I think that? First, crop species are often not particularly robust, and they don’t do well except in situations where they are planted and cultivated (and their wild competitors are suppressed). They are adapted to agriculture: they need people to propagate and take care of them. Second, the changes created in GM plants are minor in comparison to what nature has done in the evolution of an exotic invasive species. Mutations occur as accidents during DNA replication, or as damage created by many “natural” agents in the environment. Most mutations are either neutral (they don’t do anything to the organism) or deleterious (they reduce the organism’s fitness). But some are compatible with survival and change the organism in some way. That change can be acted on, over many thousands of years, by natural selection. This has been going on for eons, and the result is a vast profusion of species adapted to their environments. 

    We don’t know how to recreate or recapitulate the effects of mutation and natural selection to make an organism that is adapted and can thrive in a wild environment – that is an extremely rare event. All that we know how to do is introduce minor changes into species, and maintain the altered organisms by cultivation and selection. Without continuous human intervention, GM plants are likely to lose out to their wild competitors, and/or to eliminate the modification by epigenetic silencing or mutation, because the modifications give them no advantage in a wild environment.

    None of this should be taken as suggesting that safety assessments shouldn’t take place. But such assessments should be realistic, and based on rational assessments of risk. The belief that genetic modification in and of itself poses a risk has no place in such an assessment, because it has no rational basis. If you disagree with that, please ask yourself just why you do so.

  • Bruce Love

     So many strawmen….

    <blockquote There is no question that one ought to take reasonable measures to assure that any organism that is released into the environment is safe – I am not aware of any scientist or seed company that disagrees. But what does "reasonable" mean in this context? I and many many others think that it is reasonable to include an assessment of the actual danger to the environment and humanity posed by the uncontrolled spread of the modified organism.

    This is the key phrase:  “assessment of the actual danger” [emph. added].

    We know for a fact that GMO proponents have gotten this wrong, repeatedly.  They’ve been wrong about the threat of escapes of GMO crops to the wild (e.g. a large scale escape of herbicide resistant canola in N. Dakota).  They’ve been wrong about the threat of horizontal gene transfer from GMO crops to wild species (such as through pollen flow conveying herbicide resistance).  They’ve been wrong about the threat of horizontal transfer to bacteria.  They’ve been wrong about the environmental impacts of the cultivation methods for which GMO crops are designed.

    That requires an assessment of the species that has been modified, the way in which it is modified, and how that modification changes the risks posed by uncontrolled spread. But many opponents of GMOs seem to think that genetic modification per se is a risk, and that belief lacks any rational basis.

    The GMO opponents I know of think — based on history — that proponents simply do not know how to assess the risks.  That’s the issue you’re dancing around.

    My comparison with invasive exotic species

    Is kind of a red herring.   Indeed, invasive exotics are a big ecological problem, made worse by the globalization of trade.   We’ve got real serious problems.

    Saying that the aggressive introduction of new GMO breeds is no worse is not much of an endorsement.   

    GMO is a risk per se in part because it accelerates this ecological problem which you acknowledge exists.

    Now I happen to think that a crop species is much less likely to create the same kind of damage and risk. Why do I think that? First, crop species are often not particularly robust, and they don’t do well except in situations where they are planted and cultivated (and their wild competitors are suppressed).  They are adapted to agriculture: they need people to propagate and take care of them.

    Except that they can and do escape into the wild and they have been observed to pollinate their wild competitors and transfer engineered genes to them as well.

    Second, the changes created in GM plants are minor in comparison to what nature has done in the evolution of an exotic invasive species.   Mutations occur as accidents during DNA replication, or as damage created by many “natural” agents in the environment. Most mutations are either neutral (they don’t do anything to the organism) or deleterious (they reduce the organism’s fitness). But some are compatible with survival and change the organism in some way. That change can be acted on, over many thousands of years, by natural selection. This has been going on for eons, and the result is a vast profusion of species adapted to their environments.

    That’s a whopper.   

    The genetic changes in something like Bt corn create breeds that are radical departures from anything that actually evolved.   It’s quite true that an invasive can bring in a genotype utterly foreign to the new environment — but a GM crop brings in a genotype that has bypassed evolutionary checks on mutations entirely.

    Mutations occur as accidents during DNA replication, or as damage created by many “natural” agents in the environment. Most mutations are either neutral (they don’t do anything to the organism) or deleterious (they reduce the organism’s fitness). But some are compatible with survival and change the organism in some way. That change can be acted on, over many thousands of years, by natural selection. This has been going on for eons, and the result is a vast profusion of species adapted to their environments.

    And it occurs very slowly, with lots of checks and balances.   In plants it never involves a single mutation of the scale and complexity of a single typical GM plant creation.   

    We don’t know how to recreate or recapitulate the effects of mutation and natural selection to make an organism that is adapted and can thrive in a wild environment – that is an extremely rare event.

    Perhaps we don’t know how to do it systematically but we’ve already done it by accident.  It can’t be that rare.

    All that we know how to do is introduce minor changes into species, and maintain the altered organisms by cultivation and selection.

    Not counting the thriving escapes and crosses with wild varieties.

    Without continuous human intervention, GM plants are likely to lose out to their wild competitors,

    “Likely”.   Care to quantify that?   

    give them no advantage in a wild environment.

    You mean a “wild” environment like next to a farm?

    None of this should be taken as suggesting that safety assessments shouldn’t take place.

    Again, the main complaint isn’t that “safety” checks aren’t done so much as that safety checks can’t be done because we don’t know enough and have already seen ample evidence we’ve guessed wrong.

    But such assessments should be realistic, and based on rational assessments of risk. The belief that genetic modification in and of itself poses a risk has no place in such an assessment, because it has no rational basis. If you disagree with that, please ask yourself just why you do so.

    That’s just your own strawman you’re talking about.

  • Guest

    Not only do you not know what you are talking about, but you are quite transparently unwilling to engage in an honest and straightforward conversation on this subject. Your note above amounts to a series of snidely trivial annotations of my post, without any substance. But you do reveal some things. 

    First, your ignorance, for example: “In plants it never involves a single mutation of the scale and complexity of a single typical GM plant creation”. There is no way for you to know that, and you don’t – you are just trying it on. 

    Second, your agenda: what comes through clearly is that you do believe that genetic modification per se is a risk – although your attempt at an explanation of why it is a risk is just pseudoscientific gobbledygook, heavily reliant on snide tone, assumption, and anecdotes unsupported by any citation. 

    Finally, your dishonesty: you pretend to be dealing with the subject fairly, but you can’t help making things up – such as “we don’t know how to do it systematically but we’ve already done it by accident”. 

    My earlier comparison of your tactics to the “intelligent design” crowd just gets stronger every time you do this. You have a belief system, you think you have the right to impose your beliefs on the rest of us, but you are too lazy to learn and think through the science involved, so you just pretend to know things in order to confuse the issue and throw doubt (with a good dose of fear) on the subject.

  • The Sharkey

    Not counting the thriving escapes and crosses with wild varieties.

    Do you have a list of examples?

    That’s just your own strawman you’re talking about.

    So does that mean that you think that genetic modification is a valid tool for scientists to use to improve crops in some cases? If so, why do you express such a negative opinion about Hake’s research on the Gill Tract? What specific problems do you have with the work being done there?

    Also, it is grossly unfair of you to completely ignore “guest” when he/she asks you questions, and then snipe at their comments when they engage in discussion with someone else.

  • Bruce Love

    Hi, Guest.

    I’m willing to defend and document and everything I said there.   It was actually a pretty conservative and fact-based reply to you.

    I will note in passing that, once again, the only counter you offer is unsubstantiated insult and complaints about tone.

    So, I guess that’s that.

  • The Sharkey

    So does that mean you’ll provide some examples of the things you’re talking about? Because your above reply is jam-packed with unsubstantiated claims.

  • The Sharkey

    …you know, since you said you’d defend and document everything you said, and so far you’ve defended and documented more or less nothing you’ve said.

  • Guest

    The Sharkey’s right. You should just go ahead – defend and document everything you said. Your one attempt to provide a citation in this string was a howler – please do better than that.

  • Sandy_Green

    There is plenty of evidence that many of the GMO crops in usage, coupled with the billions of more tons of pesticides used to produce them, damage human health, other animal and plant life, and the environment generally. 
    Strands of Bt DNA have been found in the blood of mothers and babies. Bt wasn’t supposed to remain in the bodies of consumers, according to the corporation that produces the seeds. 
    Milkweeds, one of the main host plants for Monarch butterflies, are disappearing in the Midwest, where most of the GM corn and soy is grown. 
    Monumental increases in auto-immune disorders and food allergies parallel the introduction, and continued use of GMO’s(, including rBGH. The hormone rBGH given to dairy cows is transgenic/genetically modified). 
    There’s been an incredible upsurge in spontaneous miscarriage in animals fed GMO feed. 
    Rodents fed the GMO potato began giving birth to offspring with substantially smaller brains within 3 months, (or was it 3 weeks, I forget).
    Almost a million signatures were collected to put the Label GMO’s initiative on November’s ballot. We can expect some wild work on the part of transgenic seed corporations to convince Californian’s that it’s unnecessary to label our food accurately, probably suggesting it will force up the price of food. I think someone who posted on this thread thought that GMO foods are labeled in Canada. They are not labeled in Canada.A number of postings demanded somebody back up their statements. I see these comment sections as opportunities to throw ideas around and learn bits and pieces from which I can jump into further research. No one is obligated to provide more information. The Internet is large and full of it. (As am I)

  • The Sharkey

    There is plenty of evidence that many of the GMO crops in usage… damage human health

    Then could you please provide some real, concrete evidence to back up this claim?

    I think GMO products should be clearly labeled because I think consumers should have access to as much information as possible, but so far in this discussion the staunchly anti-GMO crowd has been making a lot of wild claims and not defending or documenting them.

  • The Sharkey

    There is plenty of evidence that many of the GMO crops in usage… damage human health

    Then could you please provide some real, concrete evidence to back up this claim?

    I think GMO products should be clearly labeled because I think consumers should have access to as much information as possible, but so far in this discussion the staunchly anti-GMO crowd has been making a lot of wild claims and not defending or documenting them.

  • Guest

    What you are full of is misinformation and hyperbole. Please provide citations – if you can – to support the many wild claims you have made here. And when you do, make sure to take into account the well-known rule that correlation does not equal causation: show us reliable evidence demonstrating that phenomena such as “Monumental increases in auto-immune disorders and food allergies…” have been caused by GMOs. You should also acknowledge that the mere accidental release of a GMO does not amount to damage unless characteristics conferred by the genetic modification itself can be shown to have done some damage. 

    The quasi-religious fear of GMO’s displayed by you and others on this string leads you to assume that they must do terrible things wherever they are found, and you believe this so strongly that you don’t need evidence – at least not evidence as the rest of us understand it.  

  • Charles_Siegel

     Here is a study that found BT insecticide in human blood: http://www.naturalnews.com/032407_Bt_insecticide_GMOs.html 

    Note that the underlying issue here is that there is economic pressure to use genetic engineering in ways that are profitable in the short term, without think about long-term side effects.  Thus, BT corn cut farmer’s costs in the short term, but it was very obvious from the beginning that pests would ultimately evolve resistance to this mass use of BT, and there was little thought about health or environmental impacts. 

    Evolution of pests that are resistant to BT is a blow to organic farming, since that was one of the few natural pesticides available to them.  Perhaps you do not believe that people should even have the choice of eating organic food.

  • Charles_Siegel

     “make sure to take into account the well-kn own rule that correlation does
    not equal causation: show us reliable evidence demonstrating that
    phenomena such as “Monumental increases in auto-immune disorders and
    food allergies…” have been caused by GMOs”

    It is an odd standard of proof when it comes to food safety.  How many people do we have to prove have become sick or died before you are satisfied? 

    When it comes to food safety, I myself would rather not eat food whose safety is doubtful. 

    Maybe you are willing to keep eating food that may be unsafe but has not been conclusively proven to be unsafe. Most people are not.

  • Guest

    Your bias is showing. That is an absurd standard: you are asking someone to prove that something is not dangerous, although you do not know how to make such a proof, and you have no evidence that would indicate that this something is or might be dangerous. Try applying this standard to any food. 

    This gets back to your belief (and it is merely a belief) that genetic modification per se is dangerous. You think that there must be something wrong with it, so you want to impose some impossible standard.You ask “How many people do we have to prove have become sick or died before you are satisfied?”. Right now, I would be satisfied with one well-documented example. If you can’t produce one, then please examine your assumptions.

  • Guest

    Your example is neatly illustrative. 

    First, the link you provide is to a “news” outlet, whose tone and content indicate that it is hardly objective. It implies, without ever quite saying, that some damage has been done to the women and children who were studied. So I found the research paper that is discussed in the article : Aziz and Leblanc, Reproductive Toxicology, Volume 31, Issue 4, May 2011 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623811000566)

    The paper in no way makes the claim that any damage has been done. It merely claims that certain agents can be detected in the blood of pregnant women, fetuses, and control women. One of those agents is the Bt toxin Cry1Ab. The paper makes no claim that Cry1Ab has any toxicity; it merely states that it can be detected in the blood of these people. It provides no controls at all to show that there is some population in which the toxin, or the other insecticides, cannot be detected. Since the levels detected are extremely low, such controls would be necessary to show that there is some connection between the findings and the use of insecticides or GM crops. This is important because Bacillus thuringiensis is almost ubiquitous in the environment, and so exposure to Cry1Ab might occur by some other route.

     I am not aware of evidence that Cry1Ab has any toxicity for humans: such evidence would be necessary to conclude that there is some danger, even if the Aziz & LeBlanc finding could be confirmed and the levels could be traced to GM crops. A fairly dispassionate discussion of Cry1Ab’s environmental effects can be found here: cera-gmc.org/docs/cera_publications/cry1ab_en.pdf

    In conclusion, your attitude toward this very preliminary finding is illustrative of the delusion that genetic modification itself is dangerous: the mere presence of something that MIGHT have come from a GMO in the blood of the subjects indicates to you that some damage has occurred. 

  • The Sharkey

    I’m willing to defend and document and everything I said there.

    Just wondering if you’re still planning on doing so, or if you’ve decided to ignore yet another poster who asks you to back up your claims.

  • Bruce Love

     

    Just wondering if you’re still planning on doing so, or if you’ve
    decided to ignore yet another poster who asks you to back up your
    claims.

    I haven’t seen any questions that appear serious and civil so it doesn’t seem like there’s any need.

  • The Sharkey

    Seems like “No.” would have sufficed.

    Next time you might not want to offer to defend and document what you’ve said if you have no intention of doing so. While you may just not want to do so because you think other people aren’t “polite” enough, when you do this it makes it look like you can’t defend what you said.

  • Bruce Love

     

    Seems like “No.” would have sufficed.

    I had hoped just ignoring you would be enough but it wasn’t.   Hopefully you get the message now.

  • The Sharkey

    If the message is that you continue playing expert on multiple subjects and making authoritative pronouncements without being able to back up what you say, then the message is received loud and clear!

  • Bruce Love

     One hint, Sharkey:

    When I was picking examples and issues to mention I chose some I was familiar with and decided to not use others I’m familiar with.   Part of the criteria I chose was sticking to concepts within grasp of a modestly scientifically literate audience.  Another criteria, relevant here, was “google-ability”.

    I literally did this at several points:   I thought to myself that I want to say “X” (for some X).   X might not be obvious to everyone — and probably isn’t.  But X should be easy enough to grasp given a little bit of effort — but in addition, X should be easy for people to check on their own.   I thought “If someone is unclear about X, and searches the web for more information, how hard is it for them to find?”   So I tested.  I tried sample searches.   I mostly stuck to issues which are not too hard to look up.

    There were some minor exceptions and one big one.  The big one was a comment I made to Charles pointing out implications of the apparent as-yet unexplained non-randomness of mutation locations on the genome.   Given early evidence that there are not-yet-known regulatory mechanisms at work there, the question arises as to how synthetic genomes interact with those regulatory mechanisms.   Current science is pretty good at understanding the low-level details of the primary expression of many genes, but not so good at understanding if these genes have secondary effects that impact how these organisms and their cross breeds will evolve.   This open question makes me think it’s unwise to risk escapes.  (Many cats are already out of that bag, of course, but that’s not a good reason to add more.)   So far as I know the early evidence of not-yet-understood regulatory mechanisms that effect mutations is widely known, but the concern of how that interacts in the long term with the products of synthetic biology is relatively novel.   (I vaguely recall that there has been some study of the question for micro-organisms but I’d have to search to find it.)

    Someone who issues the drum-beat that “mutations are mutations are mutations … the same problem is true of any novel breed” would be missing the point here.   The questions are:  “Do synthetic biology products bypass those presumably evolved regulatory mechanisms?  If so, what happens next (on an evolutionary timescale)?”   We’re currently a few decades into trying the relevant experiments in the wild, on a global scale, with no fail-safe — no take-backs.   I don’t think it’s wise to double down on the bets we’ve made so far.

  • The Sharkey

    Still absolutely zero documentation. Oh well!

  • Jason S

     I didn’t see anywhere in Charles’ statement that indicated any religious belief. A lot of his opinions fall under mine as well. I don’t believe he is saying GMO’s have no place or benefit to the food supply. I believe he is just trying to say what I am saying right now, that they should not be released into the environment without taking into account all the risks involved. Unfortunately, a lot of tests on GMOs don’t occur, because they are deemed unnecessary by the companies that profit from them. Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bacillus thuringiensis toxin from GM Corn in the blood of pregnant women, their babies, and non-pregnant women. Monsanto, the company that modified the corn, and the EPA both claimed the toxin would be destroyed in the human digestive system. The fact that they released GM Corn on an assumption that it wouldn’t be harmful to people, as well as Charles statement about the close call impact to the environment proves how wreckless releasing GMOs without proper testing can be. Done right with proper testing and containment, GMOs can possibly provide many benefits to us. Unfortunately, the facts about GMOs and the harm they have the potential of causing when done wrecklessly would be irrational to ignore.

  • Jason S

     Ahh sorry about that, looks like people already got into that discussion, the page didn’t show the further comments, I’ll keep my two cents out.

  • guest

    ” How many people do we have to prove have become sick or died before you are satisfied? ”  How about even ONE?  In contrast, several babies have died from being force fed a vegan diet, as have many more as a consequence of an irrational fear of vaccination.  Far Left environmentalists have boxed themselves in exactly like Far Right fundamentalists have.  Since they have abandoned a scientific world view they will fail to compete with those that have not.  

  • guest2

    I invite anyone to peruse the pages of Natural News and decide for themselves how much credibility they want to give to that news source.  It’s a beautiful blend of both Right and Left Wing clap trap.  Sort of a National Inquirer for the paranoid and hypochondrial set, and I’ve seen OTF turn to them repeated as a legitimate source of information.    Charles, you strike me as someone who is smart enough to know bullshit when you see it, so why rely on this joke of a new outlet?

    Here are some of their most popular “news” stories:
    Colorado Batman shooting shows obvious signs of being staged

    Vaccinated children have up to 500% more disease than unvaccinated children

    Zombie apocalypse becomes reality in Miami as police shoot naked, mindless man literally eating the face off another man

    Chick-fil-A sandwiches contain MSG, HFCS and anti-foaming chemicals; eating them is a sin in the eyes of God

    The GMO debate is over; GM crops must be immediately outlawed; Monsanto halted from threatening humanity

    And here one for the irony files:
    How to spot a sociopath – 10 red flags that could save you from being swept under the influence of a charismatic nut job
    And here is one of their videos that I was sure was parody,but no.http://tv.naturalnews.com/v.asp?v=0985F6E12C50947930B706A827BBEE36

  • guest2

    I know, but “Bruce” is quite clever.  As, in lawyer clever.  I’m guessing he is used to winning all of his arguments.  He is kind of crippled by his second-hand understanding of science, but it ability to selectively understand the science that has been done and “explain” it to those that know even less is masterful. 

    The problem faced by those that wish to engage in an argument with him is that I’m guessing most of those doing so here are actual scientists, who are used to dealing with other scientist who, whatever their flaws, generally want to get to the truth. Indeed, most of us know that a back and forth, during peer review for example, may be painful and even rude at times, but it usually leads to better science.  If you listen to the question and answers following a scientific talk, it is common to hear the speaker concede a point, or even thank the the questioner for bringing up a serious flaw.  Not because speakers is a particularly good person, but because scientists know that we can’t progress unless we catch our mistakes.  We know that being wrong is part of the process, and that, ultimately, data not a clever argument, is what counts.  

    In contrast, people like Bruce already think they know the truth.  Argument and conversation are not a way to get at the truth, they are a way to get power, to get what they want, and data is just a means to that end.  That is, data follows and serves the argument, not the other way around. Now that doesn’t make Bruce a bad person at all. He’s just made up his mind about GMOs and nothing will convince him that they are OK. His research on the subject has only one aim, to show that he is right. And we all have positions like that, so we all know how he feels.  

    What is frustrating for scientists about dealing with this kind of person is the nagging feeling that they are not being really honest. I have no idea whether Bruce is actually a lawyer, but he argues like a lawyer, and that is a very different way to argue than the way scientists argue.  It’s actually a fascinating window into what C.P. Snow called the two cultures.  I’m not sure how productive it is to engage with him, but it sure is fascinating to watch the conversation.